How To Import Fish And Shellfish Into The US

Your how-to guide on fish and shellfish imports into the US

If you are importing halibut, salmon, grouper, whiting fish, red snapper, squid, flounder, Atlantic cod, lobster, crab, shrimp, caviar, etc., into the US, you must know what government parties are involved, what regulations must be followed, and the fundamental aspects of fish and shellfish imports.

Parties Involved:

  • Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
  • US Fish and Wildlife (FWS) (Squid, Abalone)
  • US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
  • Customs Broker
  • Carrier

Main Regulations:

Import Fundamentals:

  • You will be acting as the Importer of Record. Therefore, you are the party ultimately responsible for the accuracy and completeness of the import declaration, as well as the payment of applicable duties and taxes into the US.
  • Duty and tax must be paid upon importation into the US.
  • The rate of duty is determined by the tariff of the commodity being imported, value of the goods, and origin of the goods.
  • Certain import documentation is required to be presented to the border services officer at the port of entry.
  • Your import may be subject to a customs review, inspection or audit prior to, at the time of, or after the importation. Additional fees may be levied by the Government of the US for these services.
  • You are required to keep your import records for five years following the date of import and can be audited by Customs at any point during this time.

FAQ: Fish And Shellfish Imports

What Is The Imported Seafood Safety Program?

FDA’s risk-informed seafood safety program relies on various measures of compliance with its seafood Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) regulations, which describe a management system in which food safety is addressed through the analysis and control of biological, chemical, and physical hazards from raw material production, procurement and handling, to manufacturing, distribution and consumption of the finished product. For imported seafood, these measures include:

  • inspections of foreign processing facilities,
  • sampling of seafood offered for import into the US,
  • domestic surveillance sampling of imported products,
  • inspections of seafood importers,
  • evaluations of filers of seafood products,
  • foreign country program assessments, and
  • relevant information from our foreign partners and FDA overseas offices.
What Are Foreign Country Assessments?

Foreign Country Assessments are system reviews that offer FDA a broad view of the ability of the country’s industry and regulatory infrastructure to control aquaculture drugs. These assessments allow the FDA to become familiar with the controls that a country’s competent authority is implementing for the distribution, availability, and use of animal drugs.

What Is The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA)?

The Food Safety Modernization Act, signed into law in 2011, is a set of seven total rules that set forth FDA’s requirements on how foods are grown, harvested, packaged, stored, and shipped.

For more information on the FSMA please check out our Blog: Food Modernization Safety Act | Re-Registering Your Facility With The FDA
What Forms Do I Need To Import Seafood Into The US?

The general documentation required to import seafood is the US Customs Invoice that includes the name, address and FDA registration number of the processor, a detailed description of the product including if the seafood is fresh, frozen, whole, fillet, the scientific name of the seafood among other required information.

Certain types of seafood such as: Atlantic Cod, Blue Crab (Atlantic Crab), Dolphinfish (Mahi Mahi), Grouper, King Crab (Red Crab), Pacific Cod, Red Snapper, Sea Cucumber, Shark, Shrimp, Swordfish, Tuna (Albacore, Bigeye, Skipjack, Yellowfin, and Bluefin), and Abalone are covered under the Seafood Import Monitoring Program (SIMP) and will require additional documentation for import.

Need a seafood import customs form? Find yours on our Customs Forms library.
What Is The Seafood Import Monitoring Program (SIMP)?

The Seafood Import Monitoring Program is a risk-based traceability program requiring the US Importer of Record to provide and report key data from the point of harvest to the point of entry into US Commerce on 13 imported fish and fish products identified as vulnerable to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and or seafood fraud. You will need to obtain an International Fisheries Trade Permit (IFTP) to import seafood regulated under SIMP.

Click here for more information regarding the Seafood Import Monitoring Program
What Is The International Fisheries Trade Permit (IFTP)?

The International Fisheries Trade Permit is required for the import, export, or re-export of fishery products subject to the NOAA fisheries trade monitoring programs. The new consolidated permit facilitates the transition from paper-based trade documentation programs to the electronic reporting system (Automated Commercial Environment or ACE) operated by US Customs and Border Protection. Products that require an IFTP to import are Atlantic Cod, Blue Crab (Atlantic Crab), Dolphinfish (Mahi Mahi), Grouper, King Crab (Red Crab), Pacific Cod, Red Snapper, Sea Cucumber, Shark, Shrimp, Swordfish, Tuna (Albacore, Bigeye, Skipjack, Yellowfin, and Bluefin), and Abalone.

Visit the NOAA Fisheries National Permit System website for more information
Who Can Apply For An International Fisheries Trade Permit (IFTP)?

Under the rules and regulations of SIMP, to apply for the IFTP you must be a US Resident. This does not mean that a foreign importer cannot clear goods regulated under SIMP, it simply means they will be required to have a company or individual in the US obtain a permit on their behalf and act as their permittee. The permittee must be listed as such on the US Customs Invoice, and under SIMP will be considered to be the Importer of Record (IOR). The IFTP holder is responsible for obtaining and retaining all required documents and information required under SIMP at the time of import.

The IOR under SIMP is not the same as the IOR for US Customs purposes. The non-resident company can still act as the IOR with US Customs, clearing the entry under their name and bond; however, the SIMP information and permit (held by the SIMP IOR) must be a US Company.

To apply for the IFTP, importers and exporters must visit the NOAA Fisheries National Permit System website.
What Seafoods Are Regulated By Fish And Wildlife (FWS)?

Fish and Wildlife oversee the imports of certain seafood such as Squid, Abalone, Octopus, and other life forms that grow on coral reefs such as Sea Cucumber and Sea Urchin.

What Is The Convention On International Trade In Endangered Species Of Wild Fauna And Flora (CITES)?

The Convention On International Trade In Endangered Species Of Wild Fauna And Flora is a program under the purview of Fish and Wildlife that oversees the import of endangered species. Goods subject to this program must have a CITES permit to be imported into the US. Imports of Sturgeon, Caviar and South African Abalone are covered under the CITES regulation.

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